Chapter 1

JACE CLIMBED the steps to his apartment building, his arms full of groceries. Shifting the bags awkwardly, he pulled open the front door as Chad called out his name. Jace turned to see his friend crossing the street toward him.

“Hey, buddy,” Chad grinned. “You’re gonna love me.”

“In your dreams,” Jace retorted absently, holding the door with his foot while he readjusted his load.

“You’re gonna bow down and worship me.”

“Do you mind helping me?” Jace asked, ignoring the last comment. A bag was slipping, and he hoped it wasn’t the one with the eggs.

Chad caught it before it fell, then followed Jace up two flights of stairs. In his apartment, Jace set the groceries on the counter and took the third bag from his friend. Finally his curiosity got the better of him. “Okay, what is it? What’s so great?”

“I got us tickets for tomorrow night’s game.”

“Seriously?” Jace beamed. “How’d you score those? I heard people were paying as much as five hundred bucks for playoff tickets.”

“Carla’s dad,” Chad replied matter-of-factly as he helped himself to a beer from Jace’s refrigerator. “A guy he works with owed him a favor or something. Her dad was planning to go, but he was called out of town at the last minute.”


“I’m gonna need cash up front, though.”

“What?” Jace grimaced, suddenly knowing it was too good to be true. “How much?”

“They were a steal—a hundred bucks apiece. Said he had people offering him two.”

“I don’t know, man,” Jace sighed. “I’m tapped out till payday.”

“You can’t be serious!” Chad exclaimed. “I mean, I can sell your ticket easy and make a tidy profit, but you don’t want to miss this. If they win tonight, tomorrow night’s game could be the final. We’d have prime seats.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Jace couldn’t hide his frustration.

“Hey, chill. Just get a payday loan. It’s easy.”

Easy for you, Jace vented silently. Your parents bail you out every time you get in over your head. As he turned away, pretending to arrange items in the fridge, he exhaled heavily. He didn’t like feeling jealous. It wasn’t Chad’s fault. Life had thrown Jace unexpected curves. His parents had spent all their savings when his dad was sick, and Jace had had to quit school. Now that his dad was gone, his mom lived on a meager income. Jace helped her as much as he could; he couldn’t stand to see her do without. But it meant he didn’t have money for extras, and his debt was starting to escalate. His bank account was overdrawn. The groceries he was putting away had been bought on credit.

He did his best to ignore the growing anxiety in the pit of his stomach. He hated being broke. He was tired of living paycheck to paycheck and going deeper into debt every month. He had big dreams, but lately he hadn’t let himself think about them, they were too unrealistic.

Jace had never hidden his circumstances from Chad. They’d been friends since childhood. Nevertheless, Chad didn’t understand. He couldn’t relate to the financial bondage, the ever-increasing weight on Jace’s shoulders.

As his friend stood waiting for a response, Jace knew what he needed to do. Like it or not, it was the responsible thing to do. He turned down the ticket.

“Okay, pal. Whatever,” Chad shrugged. “You still coming by to watch the game tonight?”

“Yeah,” Jace nodded, feeling defeated. “See you later.”

After Chad left, Jace finished putting the groceries away. He opened a beer for himself and paced back and forth in his small kitchen, trying to justify his decision. I can always watch the game on TV. The crowds would be nuts, anyway. If they win, it’ll be pandemonium in the stadium, and if they lose, there’ll be thousands of disgruntled fans.

It was no use. No amount of justifying would ease his frustration and disappointment. He wanted to go. It wasn’t simply the chance to see the big game live; it was much more than that. It represented all that he wanted in life, all that seemed to be just beyond reach.

Suddenly frustration turned to anger. “Damn it!” He slammed his fist down on the counter. “I deserve to go. I work hard, and what the hell do I have to show for it?” The anger edged him on, challenging him to action. “What’s a little more debt?” he sighed, knowing he’d probably regret his decision. Before he could change his mind, he grabbed the phone and dialed Chad’s cell, hoping it wasn’t too late.

CASSANDRA TURNED to her friend, beaming. “They’re absolutely perfect! I wanted a pair in this color. They’ll match the dress I bought in Paris last month. I haven’t worn it yet because none of my shoes were just right.”

“They’re fabulous,” Tanisha agreed. “Why don’t you wear the dress to the club, Friday? Wow all the guys and make Nick jealous.”

“I don’t want to make him jealous. We’re done. I don’t want anything to do with him. I was the one who broke up with him. Remember?”

“Yes, because he’s a lying, cheating son of a bitch,” Tanisha pointed out.

“Thanks for reminding me.”

“That’s why you need to show up looking like a million bucks and flirt with everyone but him,” Tanisha insisted. “He’ll realize what he lost—maybe even come crawling back to you, sniveling and apologetic. You’ll have the satisfaction of blowing him off in front of his friends.”

“As appealing as that sounds,” Cassandra responded dryly, “I think I’ll pass.” She was angry with Nick; he’d hurt her deeply, but revenge wasn’t her style. Neither was going to the club to flirt. None of the guys there interested her. She was tired of the dating scene. All men were alike, it seemed—at least the ones she’d met. Rich, handsome, successful yet so into themselves, their money, and their toys that they had no room for anyone else in their lives.

“I’m thinking about getting away this weekend,” Cassandra informed her friend. “It’s been months since I’ve been home. A quiet, relaxing weekend in Port Hayden would do me a world of good.”

“Your parents are still there? I thought they’d be at the summer house already.”

“No, they haven’t left yet. I talked to my dad last weekend. He sounded worried about Aunt Sophia.”

“Is she sick?”

“Apparently she blacked out, and someone took her to the hospital. She wasn’t admitted, though, and she claims she’s okay now. The woman is eighty-seven and still living on her own. Daddy wants her to move in with them, but Mother says she’d be better off in a care home. The problem is, Aunt Sophia doesn’t want to move; she’s very strong willed.”

“She’s always been eccentric, too, hasn’t she? Wasn’t she married to a Count?”

“He was a British Lord. I never really knew him; he died when I was young. You’re right, though. She’s always been a little different. Ahead of her time, really. Drove her own car at fifteen. Got her pilot’s license when she was twenty-one. She was an activist, too, marching in political demonstrations, joining hunger strikes. She even went to jail once.”


“Just overnight, but it caused quite a stir in the social circles. Lady Sophia Langdon in jail!” Cassandra smiled at the thought. Her aunt was one of the wealthiest women in Port Hayden, yet you wouldn’t know it to look at her. She lived in an older apartment building in the city’s eclectic downtown core, and although she’d driven a car for most of her life, now insisted on walking or taking public transit. The family had tried to persuade her to hire a driver, but she’d scoffed at the idea. Cassandra didn’t know whether it was a dislike for money or simply what money stood for that caused her to live the way she did. She had to admit, however, that her aunt seemed genuinely happy.

Cassandra couldn’t imagine not enjoying the comforts money provided. She’d always had all a girl could want. Growing up in a city that was home to some of the oldest wealth on the East Coast, she’d gone to private schools, spent summers at the beach, traveled, ate, and shopped as her heart desired.

Her mother’s life was a minuet, an elegant social dance, complete with fashionable charity work, endless society functions, and the responsibility of running a large household with servants. Her father, a powerful and well-respected man, sat at the helm of a multinational corporation, a company his grandfather had single-handedly built after emigrating from Europe and settling in what was now Port Hayden.

Cassandra had opted for a career, as did the majority of women her age. For most, it was about status. It gave the older generation something to brag about, something with which to compare their children. For Cassandra, it was about passion. She’d always loved writing. Once she got her journalism degree, she’d set her sights on one of the biggest magazines in the country. Her father had used his influence to get her the job, but her talent and zeal were responsible for her advancement in the company. She’d worked hard to prove herself. Now she was an assistant editor and loving it.

She paid for her shoes, and the two women began to walk. It was a beautiful evening. They were headed to their favorite French restaurant to meet several other friends. Cassandra couldn’t wait to show off her purchase, yet her happiness went beyond her fashion acquisition. Breathing deeply, she was filled with the awareness that life was very good—something she had taken for granted for twenty-six years. As she consciously acknowledged the fact, it occurred to her that she was glad Nick Hagen was no longer in her life. Breaking up with him had been long overdue. I don’t need him—or any man, for that matter—to complete me. The thought was liberating. Having no desire to get into another relationship anytime soon, Cassandra was at a pivotal place in her life. It was time to discover what she really wanted, maybe set new goals. A weekend in Port Hayden would be the perfect opportunity to begin doing just that.

JACE ATTEMPTED to quiet the discordant thoughts. As he focused on chores that needed doing, he tried to get excited about the game. I should be thankful. This is an opportunity that doesn’t come around every day. Besides, a hundred bucks is hardly a reason to get bent out of shape.

He bagged some garbage and took it to the trash bin. As he returned, he had to move to one side of the narrow stairwell to allow a woman to pass. Recognizing the old lady who lived on the top floor, he greeted her politely. He was about to continue up the stairs when she placed a small, wrinkled hand on his arm

“You can have anything you want, you know.”

“Excuse me?”

“You think life is dealing you a bad hand. It’s not. You get to choose. It’s up to you.”

He stared at her, not quite sure what to do. She seemed like a sweet little old lady, reminding him of his grandmother whose mind had started to fail the year before she passed away. As he debated whether to say something or simply smile and nod, she took her hand off his arm and turned to go down the stairs.

“It’s a nice evening for a walk.”

Jace returned to his apartment, feeling uneasy. He’d assumed that she was confused, that she’d mistaken him for someone else. Yet, as he replayed her words, he sensed they were meant for him. It’s a coincidence, that’s all, he assured himself. I must remind her of a grandson or a nephew—someone who looks like me, who’s going through a hard time.

Regardless of who her advice was meant for, it affected Jace deeply. I can have anything I want? I get to choose? I wish that were true, he sighed.

His mind drifted to dreams he’d once held of being a commercial pilot. As a young boy, his walls had been covered with posters of airplanes. Model planes sat on his desk and hung from his ceiling. He’d held to that dream through high school and wasn’t daunted when his parents persuaded him to get a business degree at the local college—something to fall back on if he didn’t make it as a pilot, they said.

He’d given in to their wishes. They were, after all, paying for his education. When his father had gotten sick during Jace’s first year of college and their insurance covered little of the cost, Jace had dropped out to work full time so he could help with the bills. That was six years ago. Since then he’d kept his dreams carefully tucked away. Now he realized why. They were painful. When he looked at them, all he could see was the huge crevasse between the dream and the reality he lived in.

Jace quickly finished his tasks, grabbed a six pack from the fridge, and headed to Chad’s to watch the game. As he descended the front steps of his building, the old woman’s words remained etched in his mind. They may have been meant to comfort someone else, yet they taunted him, reminding him he wasn’t living the life he wanted.

As if events were conspiring to torture him further, a plane went by overhead. It appeared to be making its descent toward the local airport, though not on a usual flight path. Jace watched intently as the landing gear was deployed and the wing flaps were lowered to slow the plane as it neared the ground. He stood a moment longer, paying tribute to the dreams of his childhood. Then he turned resolutely and walked away, not only from the sight of the plane but from the dream of ever flying one.

Chapter 2

CASSANDRA BUCKLED her seatbelt and put her chair-back in the upright position. Looking around her in first class, she smiled at Mrs. Charlebois who was returning from visiting her daughter in California. Two seats ahead were Mr. and Mrs. Edmonds. They had been touring Europe for several months. The Davises were on the flight as well.

The social circle in Port Hayden was small but elite. Not much happened that everyone didn’t know about. Cassandra’s mother was always up to date on gossip and had filled her in on the phone the evening before.

As Cassandra rode the escalator down to the meeting area, her eyes scanned the small airport. Not much had changed in the eight years since she’d moved away. The routine was the same every time she came home. She smiled warmly at the man who had been the family’s chauffeur for as long as she could remember.

“Good evening, Miss Cassandra.” Wallace reached to take her shoulder bag. “Did you have a good flight?”

“Yes, Wallace, thank you,” she replied as she accompanied him to the car. A porter followed and placed her Louis Vuitton in the trunk of the vintage Rolls Royce.

They chatted as they made their way to the Town House, so named to distinguish it from their summer home at Walden Beach. Her grandfather had had the house built nearly seventy-five years earlier. He was one of the first to settle in the Port Hayden area, and he’d chosen the nicest piece of real estate available. The family home sat high on a rocky hillside overlooking the town and the port itself. From the dormer window in her bedroom, Cassandra had spent many contented hours watching fishing boats coming into the harbor and sailboats and yachts setting out to navigate the islands off the jagged coast.

They rounded the last curve on the driveway, and Cassandra smiled as the house came into view. It was a four thousand square-foot, two story, chateau-style house with seven bedrooms and as many bathrooms. The manicured grounds were expansive. When she was younger, she’d loved roaming the property with the dogs by her side.

No sooner had they come to mind, when two Great Danes trotted up to meet the car. Cassandra laughed as she reached to embrace the old dogs. Nearly twelve, they looked as strong and healthy as ever. They were pure steel blue in color and stood thirty inches at the shoulders. “Hello, Samson,” she cooed. “Hello, my lovely Delilah.” After reuniting with the gentle giants, she heard barking in the distance and watched a younger dog bound toward them. Her father had kept one of Delilah’s last pups. Marrakesh had grown considerably since Cassandra had been home last. At a year old, he stood nearly as tall as his parents, but had yet to fill out. He was already a regal-looking dog.

“Welcome home, darling.” Her mother greeted her as she walked up the marble steps.

“Hello, Mother,” Cassandra smiled, taking in the familiar front entry. It was always good to be home; she felt it every time. It made her question why the lure of the big city and the demands of her job kept her away for such long periods of time.

Her father walked up and before any words were spoken, embraced his daughter. “Hi, kitten,” he grinned.

“Hi, Daddy.” She kissed her father’s cheek, breathing in his familiar cologne. “Marrakesh has really grown. He’s such a handsome dog.”

“He’ll sire some nice pups. I’ve already had inquiries about him.”

They continued talking about the dogs, her mother’s latest charity fundraiser, and Cassandra’s work. She noted that nearly fifteen minutes had passed, and her mother had yet to ask about Nick. She hadn’t told them about the breakup. However, since Nick’s parents also lived in Port Hayden, Cassandra suspected she might already know.

Her suspicions were correct; her mother admitted having heard a rumor. When translated that likely meant she’d called Nick’s mother, and the two had discussed the situation at length. Cassandra gave her parents the necessary details and then tried to change the subject, but her mother was persistent.

“I’m sure it was just a lover’s quarrel, darling. Give it a day or two. These things always sort themselves out. Nick’s a nice boy. I talked to his mother just the other day. She’s so proud of Nicholas. He’s taking the bar exam next month. After that he’ll be moving back here to join his father’s law firm.”

The picture she painted was different from the one Cassandra was familiar with. A nice boy? Nick would become a successful lawyer; she had no doubt of that. However, she couldn’t see him moving back to Port Hayden and settling down anytime soon. She was deciding how much to tell her mother, when her father intervened.

“Helen,” he said firmly. “Cass is a grown woman; she knows what she’s doing. Maybe Nick isn’t the right man for her.”

Cassandra beamed a thank-you to her father. He was a man of few words, but when he spoke, people listened. Her mother always backed down—at least in front of others. Relieved that the subject had been changed, she inquired about her Aunt Sophia. “I’d hoped to see her this weekend. Will you be having her out to the house?”

“We invite her all the time,” Helen replied tersely. “She rarely comes.”

“She doesn’t go out much anymore.” Richard Van Broden came to his aunt’s defense. “She might appreciate a visit, though.”

Cassandra was glad for the reprieve as she went upstairs. Breathing deeply, she surveyed her bedroom. Within its walls, life was less complicated. Though it seemed she had everything, she realized for the first time that her relationships were lacking. Even the relationship with her parents wasn’t as simple and easy as it once was.

Mulling it over, she curled up on the window seat and gazed out at the harbor. The sun was low, causing long shadows to reach down the rocky slopes and drape the city in a velvety grey as they made their way into the dark waters of the Atlantic. Off the coast, several small islands were still lit up by the sun’s fading light. Cassandra watched mesmerized as the shadows slowly consumed them. Her reverie was interrupted by a knock at the door.

“Excuse me, miss.” A woman poked her head in Cassandra’s bedroom. “Dinner is ready.”

“Thank you…” Cassandra hesitated. “I’m sorry; I don’t know your name.” Her mother hadn’t mentioned that she’d hired a new housekeeper.

“It’s Sarah,” the woman smiled politely.

“Thank you, Sarah. Tell Mother and Daddy I’ll be right down.”

Traditions were honored in their home, and that meant the formal evening meal required a change of clothes. Although Cassandra was familiar with the routine, she found it unnecessary and old fashioned. Her father shared her views. Whenever her mother was away, the two of them dressed in casual clothes and enjoyed their evening meal outside on the terrace or curled up in front of the television. Cassandra smiled at the fond memories, then quickly changed her clothes and hurried down to join her parents at the dinner table.

NEXT MORNING, Jace applied for a two-hundred-dollar advance on his paycheck. Chad was right; it was easy enough. Still, he had a hard time coming to terms with the extra money he’d be spending. They would inevitably go to parties after the game. By the time the night was over, the cash would likely be gone.

He hated the way money controlled his life. He longed to go out and enjoy himself like his friends did. Even with money for the ticket and cash in his pocket to spend that evening, he didn’t feel free to have fun. How ironic, he grumbled. I borrow money so I can have a good time, and I’m more miserable than ever.

When he returned to his apartment, an envelope was lying by his door. Picking it up, he saw that it was addressed to the old woman upstairs. It wasn’t the first time he’d received her mail by mistake, yet it seemed odd to see the letter outside his door and not in the mailbox, especially since there was no mail delivery on Saturdays.

Maybe someone else received it and misread the number as well, he speculated as he went up the stairs to deliver the envelope to its proper owner. Or maybe someone dropped it off. He paused when he noticed her door was open a crack. Tapping lightly, he listened for a reply. When no one answered, he knocked louder.

As the door opened further, Jace could see into the old woman’s living room. It was generously filled with furniture that looked as though it had once belonged in a much grander home. The antiquated pieces had rich fabrics and delicate wood detailing.

Standing in her doorway, Jace debated whether to leave the letter and go, or stay and investigate. Living alone at her age, she could have fallen or something. Who knows if she has family to check on her. He knocked again. “Hello?”

“Hello, there.”

The voice came from the stairwell. He turned to see the old woman climbing the stairs with a bag of groceries in one arm.

“I have to bring the bags up one at a time,” she explained. “I’m not as spry as I used to be.”

Jace quickly met her halfway down and took the bag from her. He waited for her to enter the apartment and followed with her groceries. “I got your mail by mistake,” he informed her, setting the bag on the counter. “My name’s Jace,” he added. “I live downstairs, in 202.”

“Yes. Hello, Jace,” she responded jovially. “You’ll stay for a cup of tea?”

“I…um…” Jace stammered, not sure how to respond when her invitation was more of an assumption. Having tea with an old woman on a Saturday morning was the last thing he wanted to do, but he couldn’t come up with an excuse quickly enough. She’d already put the kettle on the stove. As she set out two delicate china teacups, he sighed. I guess it won’t kill me. She probably doesn’t get many visitors. “Sure,” he shrugged.

As they waited for the kettle to boil, she addressed him. “I meant what I said the other day.”

“The other day?” He assumed she was referring to her odd statement in the stairwell the day before. Then again, maybe she’s thinking of a different conversation with someone else altogether. Jace began to feel uneasy.

“Oh, that was just yesterday, wasn’t it,” she shook her head, laughing.

“I didn’t know if you were talking to me or not. I mean, I thought maybe you had me confused for someone else.”

“I’m old, but I haven’t totally lost my mind,” she smiled. “Not yet, anyway.”

“Then I’m the one who’s confused,” Jace admitted. “You said that life hasn’t handed me a bad deal. What did you mean by that? It sounded like you knew me.”

“We’re all the same, deep down. We like to look for something or someone to blame when life doesn’t turn out the way we want. Take some advice from an old woman. There’s more to the equation. We get to have a say in how our lives turn out. It was never meant to be a struggle.”

“Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for everybody. Some people have an unfair advantage.” His defenses rose as he thought of those who got everything handed to them on a silver platter. Port Hayden had more than its share of rich, snobbish families. His mom had spent the last five years working as a housekeeper for some of the city’s wealthiest. He hated that she’d been reduced to a servant after his father passed away. She was better than that and deserved to be treated as they were—waited on and pampered. He felt guilty for not being able to make life easier for her.

“Do you really want what they have?” she asked, seeming to know who he was talking about.

“Of course,” he asserted. “Who wouldn’t?”

“I’ve had all that,” she replied nonchalantly. “It’s not as satisfying as you might think.”

“Thanks, but I’d like a chance to decide for myself.” Jace sipped his tea. It was strong and sweet, but not unpleasant. In the silence that followed, he pondered her words. Did she really have it all at one time? The furniture spoke of wealth. The teacups appeared to be fine china. I wonder what happened.

“If you look beneath the posh and glamour, the expensive toys with all the bells and whistles, you’d see people just like us. We’re the same underneath. The only difference is what we focus on.”

“What do you mean?”

“You get what you focus on,” she replied, taking a sip of her tea, then setting it down and staring wistfully into the cup. “You get what you expect from life. It took me many years to understand that.”

Jace frowned. The explanation was too simple; it didn’t account for the way life took such sharp twists and turns. He liked a good debate, however, and sensed the old bird was up to it. “It can’t be that simple,” he argued. “There are so many variables—things we have no control over.”

“It seems that way,” she went on in her sweet, even tone. “But you do have control over one aspect, and that makes all the difference.”

“What’s that?”

“Control…yes, it’s what we all want, don’t we?” she mused, appearing lost in her thoughts for a moment. “Think about it. You want money—and there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that when you get some, it’s not long before you want more. And if you do happen to get a lot of money, you deal with the fear of losing it. You have no assurance of where and when and how the money is going to come; therefore, you have no peace of mind. What you want even more than money is peace of mind, that feeling of control over your money.

“You don’t just want love,” she continued, pouring him another cup of tea before he had time to object. “You want the security of knowing that you’re in control of who and how much. It’s the same with health. A healthy body today won’t do you much good if you live in fear of dying tomorrow.”

“Well, yeah,” Jace agreed. “Everyone would like that control, but life doesn’t offer us those assurances.”

“You can have that assurance…once you understand how the Universe works.”

Jace frowned again. Though he wanted to believe the old woman had nothing of value to offer him, her words challenged his thinking. Is it that I want so badly to believe my life could be different, that it could be better? He sighed. “So you’ve figured it out? You know how the Universe works?”

“Like I said before,” she explained, “it’s all about focus. You can have anything you want, anything you choose. You’re in control.”

Suddenly Jace was frustrated. They’d come full circle, back to where they’d started the day before. Maybe the old lady is crazy after all. Maybe she gets her kicks from believing she has the answers to life’s questions. If what she says is true, how come it took her this long to figure it out? And if she’s in control of her life, why is she living alone in an apartment building that has seen better days?

Jace looked at his watch. He’d been at her place for almost an hour. He still had to fix a broken tap for his mom before he and Chad left for the game, so he thanked the old woman for the tea and said goodbye, letting himself out. As he walked to his car he breathed a disgruntled sigh, trying to shake off the uncomfortable feelings. The conversation had again left him deep in thought about the hows and whys of life. The problem was, it stirred up questions but did little to answer them.

His elderly neighbor seemed confident as she talked about focus, control, assurance, and understanding the Universe. Jace had never thought of life in those terms. The ideas intrigued him as much as they disturbed him, and he almost hoped they’d have a chance to talk again. Part of him was curious to hear more.

Then again, he argued, maybe it’s better to leave it alone. She may have gained some wisdom over the years, but I doubt she has the answers to any of my questions. The thought didn’t satisfy him; a voice inside told him the opposite was true. He shook his head, refusing to give those thoughts any more of his attention. He had a big day ahead of him and wanted to get on with it.

Chapter 3

WHEN CASSANDRA pulled up in front of the apartment building, she noticed a young man leaving. She immediately assessed him, wondering what kind of people lived in the same building as her aunt. Dressed in blue jeans and a leather jacket, he looked respectable enough. The car he got into was an older model but not in bad shape. Cassandra silently questioned whether he knew her aunt, whether Sophia Langdon associated with the people in her building, in her neighborhood.

She couldn’t understand why her great aunt lived the way she did, why anyone would choose not to enjoy the benefits money could provide. The building was old. Though it wasn’t run down, it lacked the conveniences of the newer high-rise apartments being built around it—a lobby, a concierge, an elevator, to name a few. As she walked up the narrow staircase, she continued her appraisal. The walls had a decent coat of paint. The carpet underfoot was in good shape. Still, it was far from the luxury her aunt had once enjoyed. At least I assume she enjoyed it, Cassandra mused. How could she not?

Her evaluation of the place and subsequent hesitation as she stood outside her aunt’s apartment made her aware of her growing apprehension. It was more than a year since she’d seen her aunt Sophia, and that had been at the Town House. She had only been to her apartment once before, many years earlier. The building seemed much smaller than she remembered. Not only that, but Cassandra had to admit she wasn’t comfortable visiting her wealthy aunt in such a humble environment.

The old woman answered on the first knock. A smile lit up her face as she recognized her grandniece. “Cassandra, my dear, how lovely to see you!”

Cassandra was instantly drawn to the loving warmth that radiated from her great aunt. Her apprehension gone, she opened her arms to hug the woman. At five-foot-seven, Cassandra was considerably taller, though a quality about Sophia Langdon had always made up for her small stature. Cassandra was happy to see that her favorite aunt still exuded an air of grandeur, a stately presence undiminished by her simplistic lifestyle.

“It’s good to see you, too, Aunt Sophia,” Cassandra replied. “I’m in town for the weekend and thought I’d stop by. Daddy said you don’t go out much lately. He’s been worried…”

“Worry…,” Sophia interjected, shaking her head. “It’s so pointless.”

“But Aunt Sophia, he cares about you. You’re getting older and living alone here.”

Sophia patted her niece’s hand. “Let’s have some tea, dear.”

Cassandra had to smile. Her aunt’s outlook was as simplistic as her lifestyle. A cup of tea was the immediate answer to all life’s problems. She watched the old woman in her kitchen, humming as she moved about the small space, boiling the kettle, filling the teapot, setting out cups—perfectly happy as if it were the most important task in the world at that moment.

“You don’t need to worry about me, either.” Sophia handed Cassandra her tea. “I still have some things to do before I go.”

Cassandra frowned. She’s obviously referring to her own passing, but what kinds of things is she talking about?

“You have a full life ahead of you. You’ll marry and have children.” Sophia paused and appeared to look right through her. “There’s something else…something bigger you want to do. You’re a writer, aren’t you?”

“Um…yes,” Cassandra stumbled, not sure what else to say. Was that some sort of prediction? she questioned silently. Is Aunt Sophia psychic? Could she possibly know what’s ahead for me?

“You’ll figure it out,” her aunt smiled sweetly, waving her hand to dismiss the subject. “We tend to get too caught up in the details. Details don’t really matter; it’s how you feel that’s important.”

How I feel? Cassandra had concluded that she was at a pivotal place in her life and wanted to spend time in her childhood home to sort her thoughts, possibly make some decisions. Now she realized that breaking up with Nick, coming to Port Hayden, and visiting her aunt were not random events. Sophia’s words sent chills up her spine.

There was something bigger; she’d been feeling it for months, and it seemed all that was happening was somehow leading her to it. It had to do with her writing. As much as she loved her job, a new idea was trying to get her attention, though she wasn’t sure what it was. “Aunt Sophia, how could you possibly know there’s something bigger I want to do? I’ve been feeling it, but I’ve never mentioned it to anyone. I don’t even know what it is, exactly.”

“We’re all connected, dear.” The old woman patted her hand again. “Once you learn to listen, you can hear a lot. People convey much more than what they say with words.”

“But how?” Cassandra wasn’t satisfied. She wanted to understand how her aunt could perceive a desire she was barely aware of herself, a mysterious inner longing she’d only recently acknowledged. “What do you see or hear that others don’t?”

“It’s possible to see with more than your eyes and hear with more than your ears,” Sophia explained. “You can learn to sense what’s going on with others and feel things…inside.” She tapped her chest. “Some call it a knowing.”

“So…you could sense that about me in the short time we’ve been visiting here?”

“Young people are often the easiest to read. So much enthusiasm for life. So many dreams. It’s like a bright light shining around them.”

“What else can you see? You said I’ll marry and have children. I guess that’s a common desire for someone my age, but do you know details? I mean, I don’t see it happening anytime soon; I just broke up with my boyfriend.”

“Yes, and I can tell that was a good decision. But someone new isn’t far away.”

“Not far away?” Cassandra questioned. “Are you talking about time or distance?”

“I’m not sure,” Sophia laughed. “It could mean either, or both. Don’t get too caught up in the details; you’ll find him easiest when you’re not looking.”

Cassandra was dumbfounded. She was right about me wanting to do something bigger with my life, and now she tells me I’m going to meet someone. Could that be true as well?

“We still have time,” Sophia remarked casually. “I have some things I’d like to tell you. Maybe you could write them down.”

“Sure.” Cassandra had no idea what her aunt was referring to or why time was an issue, but she was happy to help. “Do you have paper, a writing pad?”

“No, dear,” the old woman shook her head. “We’ve covered enough for today. We’ll begin tomorrow. Why don’t you come here in the morning?” She looked right through Cassandra again and nodded. “Around ten o’clock.”

“All right,” Cassandra agreed. “My plane doesn’t leave until six. Mother’s having a garden party in the afternoon, but I could come by in the morning.”

Sensing that their visit was complete, she stood up to leave. Sophia walked her to the door and hugged her affectionately. As Cassandra went down the stairs, her mind replayed their conversation. Her aunt’s uncanny knowing had left her strangely elated. She felt something significant was about to happen, yet she had no idea what it could be.

As she reached for the handle of the heavy outer door, someone came running up the front steps and burst through from the other side. She had just enough time to step back and avoid being hit.

“Oh, sorry,” a man said. “I didn’t see you.”

It was the same young man she’d seen leaving the building when she arrived. “Do you always move this fast?” Cassandra asked, annoyed. She couldn’t help but wonder what might have happened had her aunt been in his way. “There are elderly people in this building. Someone less agile might not have been able to get out of the way as quickly as I did.”

“I said I was sorry,” the man responded with a definite edge to his voice. “Besides, you were on the wrong side. Anyone who lives here knows to open the right hand door, not the left.”

Cassandra walked away without replying. Whether she’d been in the wrong or not, there was no excuse for his rude behavior. She could picture him treating her aunt the same way and immediately began worrying about the older woman’s safety. Then she remembered Sophia’s comment about worry. Although unconventional, her aunt’s way of thinking made sense. Cassandra had to admit it was refreshing.

As her thoughts returned to her aunt, she softened. She’d always held the woman in high esteem, admiring her convictions even though she couldn’t relate to her choices. Sophia Langdon had lived a long, full, interesting life, and Cassandra’s curiosity rose as she tried to imagine what she wanted her to write down. Whatever it was, it seemed important to her, and Cassandra was glad to be part of it. On top of that, she was eager to spend more time with her perceptive old aunt.

JACE SCOWLED at the woman walking away from him. Who does she think she is, coming around here, dressed to the nines in her designer clothes with her designer bag? She looks like she stepped out of a fashion magazine. Boy, is she in the wrong neighborhood.

Had he seen her in a magazine, he might have noticed how good looking she was or how her long sweater fit the curves of her body. All he could see in the moment was a rich bitch who had the nerve to come into his building and tell him how he should act. He did, however, notice the sleek, silver Aston Martin she walked up to. But instead of appreciation for the prestigious vehicle, he felt disgust for a woman who had the nerve to parade her obvious wealth in front of others—others she was well aware didn’t have the opportunities she’d been given in life.

Jace turned away, suddenly remembering why he’d been running in the first place. It had taken him longer than anticipated to replace the broken tap at his mom’s. He sprinted up the stairs, changed quickly, and took off to meet Chad.

During the two-hour train ride into the city, Jace described the morning’s encounter to his friend. The two began discussing how the rich controlled Port Hayden, how the middle class was disappearing, and how trying to get ahead in life was an exercise in futility. Chad liked to play devil’s advocate, and they often ended up debating topics they’d initially agreed upon. It frustrated Jace. Chad didn’t take life seriously; he stumbled his way through by chance. Ironically, the haphazard lifestyle worked for him. Luck was on his side more often than not. Jace couldn’t understand that. It didn’t seem fair.

The topic of the woman at Jace’s apartment came up again as they sat in the crowded stadium, drinking beer and eating spicy nachos. “You should have heard her, though,” Jace stressed, disgust evident in his tone. “She acted like she owned the place.”

“Maybe she does,” Chad shrugged. “Either that, or she represents the company that owns it.”

“No, it’s privately owned. I met the guy once, last year. He manages it himself.”

“Maybe she’s looking at buying it,” Chad offered.

Jace hadn’t considered that. It was a possibility, and it explained why someone like her would be in his neighborhood. His frustration grew as he contemplated it. She was obviously interested in the land. Real estate in that area was being bought up and developed at an alarming rate. His building would no doubt be torn down to make room for yet another high rise.

Inwardly, Jace seethed. He had no use for the aristocracy who believed they owned the city and were free to do with it as they pleased, regardless of the impact on its citizens. His anger was directed toward the woman who’d been in his building that morning, largely because of what she represented, and now he wished he’d given her a piece of his mind.

CASSANDRA SPENT a contented afternoon walking in the gardens, playing with the dogs, and swimming laps in the pool. When her mother had to run out to an emergency meeting for one of her charity organizations, Cassandra suggested to her father that they have a casual evening meal together.

“My thoughts exactly, kitten,” he winked. “And the timing couldn’t be better. The game’s on. Come and see the theatre I had installed last month.”

She followed her father to the back of the house where the family room she’d known as a child had been transformed into a sophisticated home theatre. She gazed in awe at the mammoth screen, cinematic decor, and luxurious leather recliners. The window had been removed and the walls covered with panels to absorb and diffuse the sound. Soft lighting on the floor and walls gave the room an authentic movie theater feel. “Wow! How’d you manage this?” Cassandra shook her head, laughing. “Mother was adamant about making this into a conservatory. She had plans drawn up and everything. How did you get her to change her mind?”

“I finally agreed to accompany her to Europe,” he grinned sheepishly. “It will mean three months of her dragging me into boutiques, eating ridiculous foods I despise in restaurants smaller than this room, and worst of all, visiting her uptight friends and their boring husbands. But wait till you hear the sound in here,” he added with sudden enthusiasm.

“Oh Daddy,” Cassandra chuckled, giving her father a kiss on the cheek. “You never cease to amaze me.”

They settled into the comfortable chairs to watch hockey, enjoying the meal delivered to them by the kitchen staff. Cassandra was familiar with the game, having watched many times with her father over the years, so she followed the play with interest. During commercial breaks, they picked up conversation where they’d last left it.

“I had an interesting visit with Aunt Sophia this morning.”

“How so?”

“Well…,” she hesitated, not quite sure how to describe the unusual exchange. “She told me some things.”

“What kinds of things?” The game was on again, but he remained focused on his daughter.

“About my future…it was weird. She told me I was going to meet my husband soon. I don’t know about that,” Cassandra added wryly. “But she also told me there’s something bigger I want to do with my life.” Laying a hand on her father’s arm, she looked him in the eye. “She’s right, Daddy, I’ve been feeling it. I just don’t know what it is.”

“Give it time, kitten.” Her father stroked her cheek lovingly. “It’ll reveal itself. I’d listen to what she has to say if I were you. Sophia has an uncanny way of knowing.” He shook his head. “A few years ago she told me that a partnership I was involved in was about to go sour. I took her advice and pulled out. Saved me a lot of money and probably some legal battles as well.”

“She said she has more to tell me. Even suggested I write it down.”

“About what? Did she say?”

“No, she asked me to come by tomorrow,” Cassandra replied. “And Daddy, she said not to worry about her because she still has things to do before she goes.”

“Hmm…,” her father frowned. “I wonder what she meant by that.”

“Do you think she actually knows when she’s going to die?” Cassandra asked, not expecting an answer. “Do you think anyone can know that?”

“Hard to say, kitten,” he mumbled. His attention was on the screen in front of them. Their team had scored to tie the game with less than a minute remaining.

Cassandra smiled. He was right; her future would reveal itself; her questions would be answered. She sat back, content to enjoy the cozy evening with her father as she joined him in cheering for their favorite team.

THE CROWD STOOD to its feet. The game was tied three-three, and the teams were facing off in sudden-death overtime. Jace drank in the excitement, the rush of adrenaline. The atmosphere was electric. Throughout the stadium, fans in home-team colors cheered in unison at every move their players made. Surrounding him were comrades with a single desire—seeing their team win.

Then it happened. Less than a minute into the overtime period, their team’s star player got a breakaway and rifled a shot at the top right-hand corner of the net. Jace held his breath. The puck went in; the players’ hands went up in victory; the crowd went wild.

Jace let himself get caught up in the euphoria. He’d never before been that close to victory, and he liked the heady feeling it evoked. Nothing had happened to him, yet his world had for the moment become bigger and brighter. Even the future seemed to offer more hope than before. He was tempted to question it, to analyze it, but quickly let that go. Life was too unpredictable. A feeling like that didn’t come along every day, and he wanted to make the most of it.


The standard of success in life isn’t the things. It isn’t the money or the stuff. It is absolutely the amount of joy that you feel.


<h1>Law of Attraction books by Jeane Watier | Soul Mates | Sample</h1>